Mother Jones is out with an article on Democratic Presidential Candidate Mike Gravel today called “Nader Redux: Should Dems Fear Mike Gravel.” Before you say, Mike who? A little background. Mike Gravel is a 79 year old former Alaskan Senator who has decided to throw his hat into the ring for President of the United States. At present he’s running in the upcoming Democratic Primary Election.
Now barely anyone had ever heard of Mike Gravel before his somewhat disruptive appearance at a recent Democratic Presidential debate in South Carolina, but he’s an interesting guy. He’s also a pretty radical guy. Gravel wants to bring the troops home from Iraq before the election. He wants to legalize marijuana. He wants to eliminate the U.S. Income tax in favor of a more fair consumption based sales tax with credits to offset any undue burden on the poor. More than even the issues though, Gravel has a fiery sort of speech. A sort of say what you mean and don’t give me more BS political rhetoric tone.
At present, Gravel would probably still be considered a “fringe” Presidential Candidate. But I wonder if this next election spin around if blogs and social media can’t propel a fringe candidate to a serious candidate.
As I write this right now, the article that I’ve linked above is the number two story today over at Reddit. Reddit readers seem to really like Mike Gravel. That’s where I first learned about him. And so when I learned about him (I kind of like his confrontative personality and actually support the elimination of the income tax and legalization of marijuana) I blogged about him here. But the thing is that other people are blogging about him as well. In fact, Technorati now lists 6,641 blog posts about Mike Gravel.
Now by comparison, Technorati lists 75,880 blog posts for John Edwards who would not be considered a fringe candidate but a leading contender.
Oh, and if you want to digg Mike Gravel saying he’d legalize marijuana you can do that here too (already over 4,000 other diggers have).
Now Edwards has embraced social media as well (he’s actually a contact of mine on both Twitter and Flickr). But Edwards has also received far, far, more mainstream attention than Mike Gravel has. And yet Mike Gravel has been able to garner almost 10% of Edward’s gusto in the blogosphere.
And so the question becomes, if Mike Gravel and his fiery outsider rebel stance starts to resonate more and more with social media, could social media beget more mainstream media and could that propel Mike Gravel into an actual contender.
Mother Jones wonders if in the end Mike Gravel might be the next Ralph Nader and even run as an independent if he does not win the Democratic nomination. If this were to happen this might only increase Gravel’s shine with social media more. This would likely have the effect of siphening off a potential chunk of votes for whoever else might win the Democratic nomination if Gravel threw his hat in the ring as an independent.
Although blogs were around and considered influential in the last U.S. presidential election, they are far more influential and powerful today. And with new tools for promotion in social media I think that they will play an even larger role in this next election.
John Edwards already smartly tapped my good friend Robert Scoble to involve him in blogging on his campaign (hint: for whoever wins the election, Scoble would make a perfect Secretary of Social Media). At present, Edwards is the candidate who seems to get social media more than any of the others thus far. But I think Mike Gravel just might end up being a social media Dark Horse in the end. And while blogs were around for the last election, today even more powerful tools for promotion (digg, reddit, flickr, bookmarking, technorati, and lots of other social media software) exist and I think with these tools that Mike’s campaign stands a much greater chance in today’s world than it might have 4 or 8 years ago.
By the way Mike, next time you are in San Francisco let me know. I’d love to come out and take some photographs of you to help fuel this little run you’ve got going. You never know, just the right portrait of you could easily end up in Flickr’s Explore.
Oh and one more tip for Gravel and the guys running his campaign. Start throwing some barbs out there against the MPAA and RIAA in some of your upcoming talks and just watch this thing called the internet run like a little wild fire even more.